18 Places To Visit Santa In Ireland This Christmas
When I was growing up in the 1980s, a trip to see Santa meant two options: the local shopping centre, or the local department store. Either way, there was usually an elf, usually a present, and always a man in a red suit. It was quick and easy; a no frills experience, but the highlight of the run-up to Christmas.
Today, it’s not just about going to the local department store (though that’s very definitely still popular) – now there are Santa “destinations” and “experiences”. No longer just a queue and a five minute chat with the main man; there are train rides, story-tellers, magical trails, forest walks, live animals, sleighs, fire engines, Mrs. Claus, and gallons of hot chocolate (or if you’re lucky, mulled wine). Although of course, it all costs a bit more than Santy in Switzers ever did.
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Searching online recently for somewhere new to try with my own family, I hoped to find a single list with numerous destinations around the country, but I couldn’t. So now that I’ve done the phoning and the googling, and I’ve put this list together for you. It’s just a sample of the many Santa experience options available – based on good online and real-life reviews. If you have more to suggest, add a comment!
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1. Santa at Airfield Estate, Dublin
In the beautiful setting of Airfield House, not only will you get to meet the Main Man himself; you’ll also enjoy face painting, Christmas letter writing with Santa’s Elves, decorating a delicious treat in the Elves’ Kitchen, and warming up with a hot chocolate, or mulled wine (for moms and dads!) Get crafty and make a festive decoration, and take a family souvenir picture on Santa’s sleigh; then finish it off with a magical trip on the Santa train.
Admission includes: Tour of the Estate, Hot Drink, Christmas Decoration & Gift
To enter the competition to win a Family Pass to the Airfield Estate Christmas Experience click here!
2.Leahy’s Open Farm, Cork
The nice thing about this is that visitors can check out the open farm before or after taking part in the Christmas experience. The latter includes a mystical forest journey, Mrs. Claus baking in her cottage, a wish-granting Christmas Angel and an Elf School, then a meeting with Santa and of course, a present. Leahy’s Open Farm is a perennial favourite in Cork, with consistently good reviews.
Admission includes: Admission to open farm, Santa visit & Gift
3. Fota House, Cork
Fota House will be decorated in a beautiful traditional Christmas style when Santa arrives on December 11th. Families are treated to a tour of the house – starting in the long gallery, through to Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, up to the children’s nursery, Santa’s study, the elves’ workshop, and on in to Santa himself. Families are given the guided tour as a group, then visit Santa individually for an age-appropriate gift.
Admission includes: Tour of the house & Gift
4. Beyond at Fota Island Resort, Cork
Santa and his elves are inviting guests to the gorgeous woodlands at Fota Island Resort to enjoy a dramatic and exciting Christmas experience for the whole family. Full of theatre and surprise, Santa and his team of elves are looking forward to welcoming families to a unique event this winter.
Child: From €15 - €26
Adult: From €10 - €16
Admission includes: Beyond experience & Gift
5. Luggwoods, Saggart, Dublin
The magical journey begins when you enter the beautiful Luggwoods forest at the foothills of the Dublin mountains. You will be greeted by fairytale characters, and ride the Luggwoods express through the enchanted forest; before you meet Mrs Claus, real Reindeer, and all of Santa's elves! You can then write your letter to Santa, and enjoy a free hot chocolate, before meeting Santa Claus himself.
Admission includes: Journey through the Enchanted Forest, Hot Chocolate & Gift
6. Santa's Cove, Liffey Valley
Santa’s Cove will bring boys and girls on a magical journey, with Spinners O’Shaughnessy and Fidget McPhee heading a troupe of elves. The magic begins in the Yuletide Valley, as children journey through a festive obstacle course, bounce through the ball-pit, and embark on a simulated sleigh ride. After Christmas songs with the elves, you'll pack a bag of special reindeer food to bring home ready for Christmas Eve; before helping the Toy Makers make Christmas Decorations. Hard work is rewarded with a visit to the Elves’ cosy kitchen for some of Mrs Claus' delicious hot chocolate, before you visit the very special ‘Naughty or Nice Machine’, which tells how good your child has been throughout the year! Finally meet Santa Claus himself, where your little ones will get a very special gift!
Santa’s cove will also host a series of exclusive sessions for children with special and sensory needs, including autism.
Admission includes: Journey through Santa's Cove, Hot Chocolate, Reindeer Food, Christmas Decoration, Gifts, and special Arcade voucher.
7. Christmas Island, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow
Christmas Island is in Hidden Valley Holiday Park in Rathdrum, where you can journey to Santa’s grotto is by sleigh boat! Your experience will include an exciting journey on The North Pole Express; a trip to Christmas Island, where the Elves will bring out your creative side; you can get your family photo taken in Santa’s giant red sleigh (if you have selected this option;) then party with the dancing/singing Elves. You will then depart Christmas Island on Santa’s giant Sleigh Boat, headed to see the Big Man Himself in Santa’s Grotto. Extra activities also include a Christmas movie room, kid's playground, mini golf, and the magical winter wonderland with thousands of Christmas lights.
Admission includes: Train Ride, Boat Ride, Mini Golf, Activity with the Elves, a gift from Santa, a medal from the Elves, and a Rudolph wrist buddy!
8. Green Santa at Belvedere House, Co. Westmeath
If you're near the midlands mark the 3rd of December in your diary as the Green Santa will arrive by boat across Lough Ennell to Belvedere House. Making his way to his grotto, Santa is on a mission to show children how to pot seasonal native Irish trees, which can then travel home with the children and be planted in their gardens. Perfect for any budding horticulturists and nature lovers!
9. Kia Ora Farm, Gorey, Co. Wexford
A popular farm all year round, this is a good option at Christmas, particularly if you prefer not to book in advance, as you can just turn up (though it does get busy at weekends). Admission includes full access to the farm, an animated light show, and a trip on the mini farm fire engine, as well as tea, coffee or mulled wine, and cake or muffin for the adults. Each child receives a magic "I'm on the Good List" key from Santa, to enter into Santa's giant present room to pick their own present. Kia Ora farm is very popular throughout the year, and doesn’t disappoint at Christmas.
Includes: Farm access, Fire Engine Ride, Gift from Santa's giant present room, Refreshments for adults
10. Steam Trains Ireland Santa Special
Dublin to Maynooth For something very different and novel, you could take the kids on a steam train! The return journey from Dublin to Maynooth includes a visit from Santa and a present. This can only be booked by post, perhaps in-keeping with the old-style mode of transport.
Admission includes: Return ticket for train journey & Gift
11. Santa at Westport House, Mayo
Visit Mayo's ever popular Westport House from November 26th and discover a truly magical Winter Wonderland. Packed with festive fun and cheer; this is not just a trip to Santa, but a full Christmas day out! You'll be welcomed into Santa's grotto, where Mrs. Claus will enchant children with 'The Story of Stumpa' by the fireside. Get your face painted, nibble on yummy gingerbread, as you decorate your own Gingerbread Man; and make your own Yuletide Log.
Then of course comes the main event: A visit to Santa in his magical grotto, where he'll have a chat with all the children, give gifts, and take photos to remember this special occasion. Santa Sensory experiences are also available.
Admission includes: Storytime, Christmas Activities, Refreshments & Gift
12. Rathwood Santa Train Adventure, Tullow, Co. Carlow
This is one I’ve tried myself and we loved it. Starting with a story read by Mrs. Claus, the Rathwood experience includes a train journey, followed by a gorgeous forest walk, to reach Santa’s home. There, elves entertain the kids while families go in to meet Santa one by one. After the return journey by train, there’s the option to try out the carousel, browse in the Christmas shop or visit the café for some homemade cakes and hot chocolate. We did all of that.
Admission includes: Train ride, Gift, Hot Chocolate & Activity Book
13. Santa’s Magical Trail at the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co. Kildare
At Clanard Court Hotel, you follow the Mad Hatter through a forest trail, check in on the elves and Mrs. Claus, then travel in Santa’s Magical Carriage to meet the farm animals, and finally visit Santa for a chat and a present. There’s hot chocolate and marshmallows to warm everyone up after all that activity. Santa’s Magical Trails has a sleepover option too! This one comes up regularly in discussions about good Santa destinations and is always very popular.
Admission includes: Gift, Hot Chocolate & Marshmallows
14. Brigit’s Garden, Galway
If you’d like to take the focus away from presents, you might like Brigit’s Garden in Galway. Their “Santa’s Christmas Magic Show” includes music and dancing, followed by the lighting of candles, and then the lighting of the Christmas tree – by magic. There are no individual presents for children (though there is a “symbolic gift” for each family). So if you’re worried about the commercial side of Christmas, this might be the one for you.
Includes: Interactive Show, Mulled Punch & Hot Chocolate
15. Aillwee Caves, Clare
This is a visit with a difference – children and parents are led by elves through Aillwee cave passageways, to meet Santa for a chat and a present. Mrs. Claus is there to greet the grownups with a glass of hot punch and a mince pie. Santa's train is available for rides all day, taking families to visit the Birds of Prey Centre, to meet a Snowy Owl or Happy Harris Hawk.
Admission includes: Entrance to Aillwee Caves & Birds of Prey Centre, Gift, Hot Punch and Mince Pie
16. Bunratty Castle, Clare
The Bunratty Castle Christmas experience includes a storyteller, Mrs. Claus, elves, Scrooge and other Christmas characters. There’s a puppet show, and a complimentary mulled wine and mince pie for the grown-ups (always good).
Admission includes: Gift, Puppet Show, Mulled Wine and Mince Pies.
17. Santa’s Island – Donegal’s Lapland, Donegal
Santa’s Lapland in Donegal includes a live show, with an elf telling the nativity story as it unfolds on stage. Santa arrives down the chimney with a small gift for each child. They move on to Santa’s home, visit the toy factory and sit on his sleigh. There’s a second chance to meet Santa at his home, and have photos taken.
Child: €14.50 (plus booking fee)
Adult: €14.50 (plus booking fee)
Admission includes: Live show & Gift
18. Stonehall Wildlife Park, Kilcornan, Co. Limerick
Stonehall Wildlife Park in Limerick has the real Rudolph (well, a real Rudolph) on site, along with lots of other animals and an indoor play-area. As well as the meeting with Santa and a present; Mrs. Claus provides tea, coffee and mince pies for the grown-ups.
Booking Fee: €2.50
Admission includes: Entrance to Farm & Wildlife Park, Gift, Hot Drinks & Mince Pies
Where do you bring your children to see Santa? Did you go and visit him when you were little? What do you remember?!